Jack Eichel feels your pain.
Sabres fans haven't seen a playoff game in Buffalo in seven years. The first three years of Eichel's NHL career have gone by the boards with nary a sniff of the postseason too.
"It's tough, really hard. It's frustrating," Eichel said Monday morning as the Sabres cleaned out their lockers in KeyBank Center. "You kind of look back and it feels like yesterday I started here and to be three years into my career and yet to really make the impact that I'd like is frustrating for sure. ... We need to find a way as an organization, as a group inside this room to get out of whatever rut this is. It's tough. It's a lot easier said than done. If we talked 10 months ago, obviously I don't think I'd be standing in this position."
The Sabres finished 31st overall, dead last in the NHL standing for the third time in five years. Eichel said he knows the locker room will have a different look come fall after General Manager Jason Botterill takes his second crack at retooling the roster.
"There needs to be change," Eichel said. "Everybody obviously needs to look at themselves and figure out what they're doing and change it. Myself, whatever I've been doing hasn't been working. What we've been doing as a team hasn't been working. All you can really do is focus on yourself and changing yourself and I think that's what helps change the culture and change the team. It starts every day at practice.
"You can't sit here and feel sorry for yourself or feel sorry for the team. We've got to take the next step and honestly it starts now in your preparation for next season. Sixteen teams are going to play in the playoffs for the next few months and we're not going to do anything. We've got to get ready for next season."
Eichel didn't specifically say he wanted to be named captain, and coach Phil Housley said the team will evaluate its leadership structure after playing this year without a captain. But Eichel certainly acted like one Monday, insisting the Sabres are bent on breaking their playoff drought.
He knows all eyes will be on him, as his eight-year, $80 million contract extension signed in October kicks in next season.
"We have to communicate a message to our fans, our organization, our city that as bad as things were, we're going to change," Eichel said. "We're going to change things around here. It starts with the guys in the room. It starts with me. ... It's been a tough three years but I'm fully invested in this team, this organization, this city. I'm here for a while and I'm excited about it. I'm excited about the future. Things will get better."